AN OPEN LETTER TO THE LORD
ON MY INABILITY TO LIVE AS THE MORAL CODE DICTATES
written on 2/14/201414; updated on 7/3/2019
With every other thinking human being, I ask you this, Lord: “Why did you make me the way that I am, except to be the way that I am before you and in the world?”
I carry all the sorrows and regrets and bitterness and anger that come to me, as they do to everyone, in this space of life-time, and I carry them in the only way I know. In my heart I’m angry. Sometimes I weep there, or moan (as Billy Crystal taught me to do—and it’s helpful and consoling.) Sometimes I think or say outrageous things, or unkind things, or hurtful things. I am sorry for all that. I apologize to those I’ve hurt, whether deeply or slightly. I offer no excuses. I say only that I do who I am on every occasion—except when I’m dishonest or disingenuous and put on a face to meet the faces that I meet. But I hate acting as though I am someone who I am not. Always when I do so, in the depths I recognize as I am acting a role, that I indeed am being false. Then I ask, “Why in hell do I want to do that? To be happy, to be accepted into the group, to be “one of us,” to be loved by you, must I live a lie? Must I pretend to be who I am not? Must I, a fallible man, perfectly imperfect in my greed and selfishness, act piously and caringly when I am not?”
Perhaps the wisdom is, to paraphrase Therese of Lisieux, “Yes, live the lie, even if you don’t want to, until you become what you are pretending to be.” In other words, Act holy and you will find that over time you have grown into holiness.
I don’t know what to do with that kind of thinking. But my whole lived experience as a false person teaches me that hypocrisy never leads to genuine compassion. P.T. Barnum is probably closer to universal truth in this regard, when he said, “You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time. But you can’t fool all the people all the time.” If a person cannot see himself acting a role to convince others that he is not who he actually is, there is always someone who will confront him with his falsity and articulate the truth of him.
And even if Barnum is wrong and Therese is right in your universe, at what point in the pretense do I cease being the me you created and lose my sense of self in scurrying to meet the expectations of you and of others?
If you wanted me to be different from what I am, Lord, why didn’t you create me as a different person? This is the question the LBGTQ folks asked loudly and often twenty years ago, and their question still involves each of us who recognizes that we are not what we “should be.”
If you created me to be one way and then expect me to be a different way—a way which denies or suppresses who you created me as—why would you do that? To terrorize me? To cause me pain? To show me undeniably the difficulty of achieving your approval?
I don’t understand any of this. I thought that you are a loving God who, as ben Sirach says, loves everything you create. If you created me one way in order to have me contort myself into something else by my fighting a battle against the way you created me—a battle against my own character—then I do not understand what you are doing, and I have to ask, Why?
Is the way that you lovingly created me not good enough for you? Then, if not, why didn’t you create, instead of the me you created me to be, someone else who is good enough for you, just the way he is?
Not just me, Lord, but all of us. Are we good enough for you just simply to love, despite all our flaws, despite all our idiotic and hurtful and often intentionally cruel ways of responding to our situations and to the people in those situations? If we’re not good enough for you, why did you make us to be the ways that we are, every one of us different, every one of us too ignorant and too flawed?
Why have you pinned us in this hammer-lock between how we are and how you expect us to be? Why can we never overcome all our faults—but rather, when we think we’ve overcome the big fault in our lives, another fault opens within us and swallows up our confidence in the discipline of self-denial? In the place of one fault, we find ten newly discovered, though ancient within us.
Even in my old age, I don’t know what is true. Only you know if and how the circumstances of the world are woven together to form a pattern or to accomplish a purpose known in detail only to you. The Scriptures to which I have listened say that you do indeed have a purpose for all this. And that purpose is to draw all things to yourself by an on-going process of perfection which you initiated in yourself. I have accepted the belief that we all grow into the perfection you desire, you who created many in order that we might all be one in and with you.
But I also know that ultimately I am your mannequin—a vestige on which you hang your hand-made clothing of life and grace. I know that I am your marionette—dancing the dance of joy or sorrow or all the other emotions as you pull the strings in time with the music of circumstance which you have composed and orchestrated. That is, you create the world, and into a certain situation in it, you place me as you have created me to be. Since I am who I am, I respond to every situation in the only way that I am able to respond—in the only way that the nature and character you endowed me with can respond.
And I am your dummy—an empty, wordless thing that opens its mouth when and where its constitution causes its mouth to open. And the words that issue from it are mine only in the sense that you speak through the character that you have made me to be.
Yes, you give me a kind of choice that allows me to determine which among several options I prefer. But even that choice is not “free.” Rather, it arises from that particular constitution you have endowed me with.
The truth is this: I am nothing. You are everything. That is why I do not construct explanations of these issues from my own reason or experience. That is why I ask you these questions.
Copyright © 2014, 2019 by Matthew Skulicz